Addressing the Food Issue and Wastage May Mean a Secure Future.
Over a week ago, I travelled extensively in the areas of Kiambu, Narok and Kisii. And something caught my attention. It was to do with food. We all naturally love food but some of us love food a little more than others. In fact food is central to our existence.
Going by the numbers, we are already scrambling for this precious resource. Interestingly enough, some places are richly blessed with much food while others are not. I noticed that the areas of Githunguri and Limuru have plenty in terms of agricultural produce.
Speaking of Githunguri and immediately we realize that milk is in huge supply in those areas. Not only that, but crop wise also the area is rich in produce. Limuru also does well in farming activities given the cool climate; the very reason why dairy farming is also identified with it.
Then Narok is known for ngano. The crop does so well until when it is ripe and ready for harvest you can be tricked to just sit there and enjoy looking at the expansive farms that make the place look amazing. When the combine harvesters come by and are busy working the farms, it is simply magical.
Another wonderful thing with this pastoral community is that they do well with animals. You can easily come across a single Maasai with so many cattle, sheep and goats and realize why they can easily marry as many wives as they can.
Moving forward to Kisii, I came across a land of plenty. By the roadside and in the villages, one gets welcomed with the plenty of goodies. On one hand are bananas, sugarcane, milk, avocadoes, sweet potatoes and on the other hand all manner of vegetables.
It is in Kisii I am told that one man can wake up to eat ugali for breakfast, eat ugali for lunch and still eat ugali for supper. Truly, only Luhyas can compete with them on this. No wonder these guys are strong that they manage the highlands farming even the more.
The only difference between the three places discussed above is purely on land policy. Whereas one can still manage to find land for extensive farming or already farmed in Githunguri and Narok as well as part of the Rift Valley, Kisii has been largely subdivided until soon her glory is to be lost.
For sustainable food security to feed the 7 billion people already in this world as well as ensure the future is secure, there is a need to have more land put under agricultural use. But if it’s to make any economic sense, the land must be able to be mechanized. That is the most viable option.
Large scale farming can help feed more people because of high yield and reduced operational costs compared to small scale farming. Specialization is possible only in large scale farms whereas small farms can only juggle with all manner of crops unsure of what to really focus on which results in only confusion.
The next big issue that arises after the production of the food is handling as well as storage and preservation. Lack of value addition or proper value addition in cases where it already exists, is the result of a lot of waste.
For example, while in Kisii, I came face to face with sacks of avocados already rotten and others beginning to rot in a market square with nobody keen to worry about the loss. I then remembered that about a third of our food goes to waste simply because of poor post handling techniques.
I, at some point wondered loudly why those avocados, in realizing delays to reach the end market, would not be dried up and instead have avocado oil extracted from them. It then clicked my mind that lack of the necessary skills and machinery would be the issue here.
In case of potatoes, drying them up in the sun or in cooking oil or turning them to flour or baking longer shelf life products could mean the difference on how we tackle food wastage. I remember while growing up in the village especially when we were beaten thoroughly to finish eating our food. We ate not be full but rather to finish.
As you realize it was a way of reducing food wastage however crude it was. And with the advanced technologies, it means we can do better in food conservation. If there is something we need to prioritize, it should be food handling, processing and storage.
The world population keeps on burgeoning, and probably we have had the same way of approaching the whole agricultural value chain issue which even means diminishing results as time goes by and we expect that we are safe or rather ready to face the future. Surely, we are not.
Farmers should stop copying each other by planting the same crop all around until there is a bumper harvest but then we realize that we can not trade with each other because we have the same product and thus end up incurring losses due to wastage or low market prices.
As we learn about complementary farming, let us also remember to work keenly on food handling, processing, storage and most importantly value addition.
We better start doing the little we can towards ensuring that we are food secure and that food wastage/losses are a foreign vocabulary to us. Only then can we proudly say to the future confidently, “Dare us and see.”